Look how five years of volunteer effort turned an
llegal dumpsite into a natural “pocket park” …

Working Wilkes Creek natural area is Cameron Packaham, an Eagle Scout from Troop 613, along with his dad, Kevin Kackham, and brother Kohler.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When it started out, the lot at 3655 NE 154th Avenue, just south of NE Sandy Boulevard, was an illegal dump.

“The lot was covered with a giant blackberry thicket,” the neighborhood chair of Wilkes Community Group, Ross Monn, told us at the site, “And was full of all kinds of refuse.”

We recall photographing volunteers hauling out tires, appliances, and other discarded materials when the project began five years ago. “We’ve taken out invasive plant species, and planted native growth,” commented Monn.

A shy volunteer rolls another wheelbarrow of wood chips across the newly-completed bridge that crosses Wilkes Creek.

Monn related to us the brief history of the project.

“This space belongs to the Wilkes Community Group neighborhood association. We got an easement through the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, with help of Mindy Brooks, for the homeowners’ association. Then, we started lining up volunteers from SOLV to come in and start helping us with the work.

METRO grants aid efforts
The volunteers got financial help from METRO in the form of two “Nature of the Neighborhood” grants — $2,500, and later $8,500.

With these grants, the group was able to hire help for some of the more difficult or dangerous improvements. “For example, we were able to have the footbridge over Wilkes Creek professionally designed and built.”

SOLV representative Steve Kennett tells gathered celebrants he’s pleased with the result of the group effort to improve the Wilkes Creek area.

Says the effort brings pride
Before the brief dedication ceremony, we walked along the woodchip-lined, winding pathway through the trees, and talked with District 1 METRO Counselor, Rod Park.

“I see all the work done by the volunteers,” Park said, “and the pride they’re showing as they restore this area. You know this translates into a better future for Wilkes. Now that this former eyesore is being cared for, neighbors have pride in it and will keep an eye on it.”

As we crossed the newly-installed footbridge, Park recalled that the designing and building posed one of the greatest challenges.

“This project is part of what we’re trying to do at METRO; that is, ‘re-nature’ areas, bringing back a natural state to neighborhoods,” Park added.

Project called a great example
The METRO grants administrator for Nature in the Neighborhoods, Janelle Geddes, said Wilkes Creek was a community-leveraged project. “They’ve done an enormous amount of work. We estimate this project has received $21,000 worth of volunteer time donations.”

One reason why this little creek is important, Geddes told us, is that it flows directly into the Columbia Slough. “This project is truly in the spirit of our ‘Nature in the Neighborhoods’ program. This improves neighborhood livability, and at the same time, protects an important water resource.”

District 1 METRO Counselor Rod Park stands with Wilkes Community Group chair Ross Monn, as he commends the efforts of volunteers to clean up the Wilkes Creek site.

For a few minutes on the morning of September 22, volunteers from the Boy Scouts, SOLV, and the neighborhood took a break to celebrate their accomplishments. After brief remarks, within ten minutes, the volunteers were back at work.

“This is wonderful,” Monn commented. “Our neighbors get a cleaned-up natural area. And, we’re going to be doing an education program. School kids can come to see nature in the Neighborhood. This is a project of which we can be proud.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Learn how this organization is working to help promote business – and public safety – in their area. And discover some of the tips that Kevin “Not your ordinary bean-counter” Minkoff CPA shared with the group …

Helping promote the idea of doing businesses, members of the Midland Business Association have printed and are distributing these promotional window clings to area stores.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Working to stimulate business in the southern area of outer East Portland, members of the Midland Business Association have started a “buy local” branding campaign in their area.

“It doesn’t make any difference whether or not businesses in our service area — from I-205 to Gresham, and SE Holgate Street north to SE Market Street — are members,” explained association president Donna Dionne. “We’re giving them all a window cling to put on their front door. More and more, neighbors will recognize that we appreciate them doing business here.”

Association president, Donna Dionne tells about the group’s plans to further promote their district.

Electronic billboard ads in December
Additionally, the group plans to buy ads on the electronic billboard at the corner of SE Division Street at SE 122nd Avenue during the holiday season. “This is another way of promoting the idea of doing business in the Midway area,” said Dionne.

These ads, she said, will direct viewers to the organization’s website, featuring merchant coupons.

Partnering for neighborhood Safety
Working with the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, the business group is helping sponsor aSafety Fair” on October 13. At the fair, residents learn safety tips from law enforcement, community and business re– learn. The business association is sponsoring free, on-site shredding.

The Safety Fair event runs from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at Floyd Light Middle School at 10800 SE Washington St.

“Not your ordinary bean-counter” Kevin Minkoff, CPA warms up the crowd by telling the accountant jokes for which he is well known.

Better business results through accurate accounting
The featured speaker at their September meeting was Kevin Minkoff CPA.

Minkoff’s upbeat, lively presentation was filled with tips and techniques.

“My very best small business tip is this,” Minkoff began. “You already know how to use your ‘tools of your trade’ required in your business or profession. Now, learn how to use accounting tools to work on your business. These tools include financial statements, your balance statement, and profit and loss analysis.”

“Instead of always focusing on how to reduce income taxes,” Minkoff went on, “organize the financial portion of your business so you can maximize and understand the ‘big picture’ of your business – including taxes.”

While Minkoff presents information in an easy-going way, attendees got solid, practical advice.

Avoiding common tax mistakes
Minkoff suggested business people take full advantage of legal tax deductions by:

1. Keeping track of all income and expenses. “Don’t ignore cash expenses. This includes parking meter money — even newspapers dedicated to business use. Not keeping track can add up to thousands of lost expense dollars you could deduct.”

2. Prepare for an audit before you are audited, he recommends. “Keep good documentation; without it, you have no proof of transactions that might be questioned.” Unsubstantiated vehicle mileage claims are an area of abuse for which auditors look, Minkoff noted.

3. Use care accounting for independent contractors. “Make sure you send 1099 forms to your contractors. By the way, it isn’t your choice whether or not a worker can be designated as a contractor or an employee; you must follow the Oregon Department of Revenue and IRS guidelines. If the preponderance of evidence is that they are an employee, account for them as an employee.”

4. Be careful allocating business and personal expenses. “Is your ‘gear’ (car, tool, rent) really used 100% for business purposes? If not, don’t claim all of it. The goal is to be sensible. An IRS auditor should be able to look at your income and expense statement and say to himself, ‘Oh, this makes sense’.”

Minkoff tells the group he has a wealth of free information available at his web site. We checked; and he does have helpful calculators and tip lists! CLICK HERE to visit his site.

Tax tips:

  • Start a New Retirement Plan for your small business — you can claim a tax credit of up to $500.
  • Small business health insurance — business owners must follow separate rules for deductions, but self-employed people can deduct the cost of their health insurance on their 1040 form.
  • Selling your business — consider an installment sale, to defer and save tax. “Spreading capital gains over time may put you in a lower tax bracket.”
  • Pay taxes online — The IRS Electronic Federal Tax Payment System allows business owners to pay most business taxes online, eliminating paper checks and payments.

Come meet the members
Come learn all about this new business group and meet the Midland Business Association members. Visitors are always welcome; reservations aren’t required.

This month: Arleen Mcleen of Work Smarter will be the speaker. She will offer ideas to help small business folks be more efficient, to get more from their business both in profit and smooth operation.

The meeting and presentation is free (but you pay for your own lunch). The meeting runs from 11:45 AM until 1 PM at Bill Dayton’s PIZZA BARON Restaurant on SE 122nd Avenue, just south of Division Street. For more information, go to www.midwayba.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Is it safe to cross? Although the bridge is rated a “2” on a federal sufficiency scale of “100” it could be years until it is replaced. We’ve got the scoop (and some neat photos) right here …

Under and around the girders, inspectors take a close look at the substructure of the Sellwood Bridge.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As you read in our article featuring Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler’s remarks last week – the Sellwood Bridge is one of his four top priorities.

But, a couple of Sundays ago, surprised motorists on both side of the Willamette River who wanted to make a crossing discovered they were in for a long detour. The Sellwood Bridge was closed to vehicular traffic while it underwent an announced major inspection.

We watched as a special rig was deployed to allow inspectors to take a close-up look at the bridge’s underside. Slowly, a hanging scaffold snaked its way between girders and struts.

Although it looks precarious, inspectors ride a specially-designed rig that permits them to safely look at the underside of the bridge.

Because of their closer-than-usual examination of the Sellwood Bridge throughout the day, inspectors were able to scrutinize less than half of the structure.

“They’ve completed just 40% of the inspection,” later reported Multnomah County public affairs office official, Michael Pullen. “Inspectors will return on Sunday, October 7, to complete the inspection. This time, they’ll come back with additional manpower.”

Low-scoring bridge
Having heard that the bridge rates a “2” on a federal scale of 100, we asked Pullen why such a poorly-rated structure was allowed to carry any traffic.

“The rating is called a Bridge Sufficiency Score,” Pullen explained. “This is a measure of both structural sufficiency and how well it meets traffic demands.”

Getting an up-close look, inspectors carefully examine rivets that hold the bridge together.

Double whammy drops score
The Sellwood Bridge, Pullen went on, scores poorly in both categories. “It gets a double whammy. First, it has structural problems. And also, it performs poorly for all five transpiration modes — pedestrians, bicycles, cars trucks, and busses.”

The reason the bridge is posted for a 10-ton weight limit, explained Pullen, is to keep it from deteriorating more quickly than it already is. “This doesn’t mean a 20 ton vehicle would collapse it. It means it has less capacity to carry heavy loads.”

Inspectors will be at it again – meaning the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic, on Sunday, Oct. 7.

Says bridge is safe
When we asked if the bridge was safe to cross, Pullen replied, “If the bridge was considered dangerous for the public to use, the county would close the bridge.”

So far, he added, inspectors haven’t detected any major problems “they didn’t know about. They are finding continuing deterioration”.

While the bridge will again be closed to vehicular traffic for the day on Sunday, October 7, the bridge sidewalk will remain open for bicyclists and pedestrians – although there could be short, intermittent delays for sidewalk users.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

At a rally last week, orchestrated as well as any we’ve seen, Oregon State Representative Jeff Merkley kicked off his campaign to replace US Senator Gordon Smith. Look who showed up to cheer him on …

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams revs up crowd with the chant, “Who are we here for? Jeff!”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
This article is not an endorsement – we don’t endorse candidates.

But the fact that outer East Portland resident – and David Douglas Schools graduate – Jeff Merkley is running for the US Senate seat held by Republican Gordon Smith is genuine news.

Merkley’s campaign kick-off last week was smoothly timed and impeccably produced.

We arrived promptly at 5:00 p.m.; neither Merkley nor his touring motor coach was on site. After a local band played, local progressive politicians took the stage.

Warm-up speeches by fellow Oregon legislative Democrats Diane Rosenbaum and Chip Shields began the event.

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams whipped up the crowd with a responsive chant, “Who are we here for? Jeff! Who are we here for? Jeff!”

Adams continued, “I’m honored to have the opportunity to tell you why I’m supporting Jeff Merkley for Oregon US Senator. He is a decisive leader who will speak for this state with an authentic voice.”

Wild cheers went up from the throng that had gathered.

“The ‘G-Men’, George and Gordon, have taken us in the wrong direction. Gordon Smith votes with George Bush at almost every opportunity he has,” continued Adams. “Booooo! Jeff thinks for himself.”

Merkley’s campaign motor home rolls into view during former Governor Barbara Roberts’ speech.

Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts followed Adams.

Roberts addressed the crowd, “Democrats, independents and enlightened Republicans, I have the opportunity to introduce to you the next United States Senator. The decisions American voters will make in 2008 will shape our country’s future. We need an authentic voice speaking for us in Washington D.C.”

Walking through the crowd, Merkley makes his way to the stage.

As he mounts the stage, Merkley goes for a big hug from Former Oregon Governor, Barbara Roberts.

On cue, a giant motor home, every inch covered in tastefully-done campaign graphics, pulled in the lot. To adulation of ardent supporters, Jeff Merkley walked from the motor home into the crowd; then to the raised platform from where he gave his first, official “stump speech”.

With his family behind him, Jeff Merkley delivers his first official campaign address to his supporters.

To read Merkley’s message, or view a video shot at this event, go to www.jeffmerkley.com.

Interested in what Gordon Smith has to say? Check his web site at www.gordonsmith.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Find out why the CEO of Adventist Medical Center – and his top managers – took a day “off work” to do manual labor …

Adventist Medical Center’s Pam Strachan, of the Pastoral Care Department, Deryl Jones, hospital president, and Ray Ammon, also from Pastoral Care, help “build community” by swinging hammers at Jubilee Commons, the Mt. Hood Habitat for Humanity development at 635 S.E. 197th Avenue on September 18.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Helping to create Jubilee Commons, Mt. Hood Habitat for Humanity’s biggest project to date, the leadership team from Adventist Medical Center (AMC) stepped away from their desks, put on jeans and work boots, and grabbed builders’ tools last week.

“At AMC, we talk about building a healthy community,” says marketing director Judy Leach. “This is a perfect opportunity to make a visible difference in our community and help fulfill our mission. Adventist Health will not only build a decent home for a family in need, but our group will also be creating a sustainable solution to poverty, and improving the lives of deserving families.”

As we watch volunteers climb ladders, walk scaffolding, and sheath a home, Leach tells us 20 executive staff members came out for the building project.

Jonathon Shorter, Director of AMC’s Hyperbaric and Wound Healing carries his share of the load at the Habitat for Humanity “build day”.

The development they’re helping to build, she says, is a 22 unit housing complex and community center that will house 44 adults and 56 children.

“Mt Hood Habitat for Humanity relies heavily on volunteer labor and community donations to build houses,” explains Leach. “Habitat provides a ‘hand up’ not a ‘hand out’.”

By this, she explains, Habitat families must contribute 500 hours of ‘sweat equity’ labor towards the building of their own home. Completed homes are sold at no profit to partner families, who pay an affordable, no-interest mortgage. Their mortgage payments are then used to build more Habitat homes.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Is the Rossi family working with developers? Will the farm be turned into a shopping center or low-income housing? Will Rossi Farms continue to host community events? Find out the truth right here …

Joe Rossi, enjoying a fresh, crisp apple at Rossi Farms “Movie Night” in September, says his family plans to continue hosting community events on their property.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A week after the Barn Bash in July, the daily Portland paper ran a story about the Rossi family and the demise of family farms in the area.

However, this article posed more questions than it answered. Over time, the unanswered questions become “facts” in the minds of readers.

Joe Rossi spoke with us this week, talking about the farm, his family, and their plans for the future.

Regarding his father – Aldo – and their family, Joe said he doesn’t think it appropriate to share with the public intimate details about the decisions his family has been making – and will be making. “Our family is very close. We talk things over, and share responsibilities for caring for our parents and each other.”

Because they’ve long been involved with community events, many people think of the Rossi family as a “public community corporation”. In fact, however, Rossi Farms is a family-owned business. “I appreciate the fact that people have an interest in our family. We’re still dedicated to serving the community in many ways,” Joe commented.

No development planned for Rossi Farms
We talked about a rumor that has been circulating throughout outer East Portland that the Rossi family is keeping silent because they plan to build a shopping center, business park, or a large housing development on Rossi Farms land.

“It’s not true,” Joe told us. “We’re not even talking to a developer. It hasn’t even been brought up in the family.”

He went on to explain, “My brother, Nick, is a Realtor. He has a sign in the corner of our property that advertises a townhouse development, already built, on NE Sandy Boulevard in Parkrose. I think that some people don’t carefully read the sign, and think we’re developing the farm.  It only takes one person to start a rumor.”

Irrepressible Parkrose volunteer Mark Gardner steams fresh corn-on-the-cob for the Movie Night at Rossi Farms.

Community service continues
Reports in other news sources hint that Rossi Farm has seen its “last Barn Dance”.

“It’s not true,” Joe said. “We’re already planning the next Barn Bash in July, 2008.”

The Barn Bash, he continued, has grown to include many sponsors in the greater Portland area. “I started the Barn Bash with a couple of my friends several years ago, but now, ‘The Posse’ is comprised of about 30 volunteers who are dedicated to raise money for youth activities in Parkrose.”

On September 15, we stopped by their Movie Night. Families streamed on to the Rossi Farms property from the surrounding neighborhoods. Although it was only promoted locally, about 500 folks showed up for the event.

At the event, everyone was treated to free corn on the cob, watermelon, apples, and 25-cent hot dogs. “I love these events where families can have a good time without having to spend a lot of money.”

Ready to serve hot dogs is volunteer Christina Bruck.

The weather was perfect for this outdoor event. After volunteers dished up the food and families enjoyed their dinner, the movie began on the outdoor screen.

“The best part for me,” said Joe, “is watching everyone have fun – and getting to work with our great volunteers.”

The ghosts, ghouls, and goblins again return to The Haunted Ghost Town in October.

Ghost town returns to the farm
Rossi’s Haunted Ghost Town – a production featuring scary, realistic sets, and scores of actors – returns this year, running the last two weekends in October.

“This annual even is the Parkrose High School Senior All-night Party’s big fundraiser,” Joe said.

The Haunted Ghost Town will again feature ghosts of the Wild West, dancing ghouls, the cornstalk maze, haunted mine, and lots of other surprises. Their motto is, “Don’t touch anything – and usually, nothing will touch you!”

If you’re brave enough to venture through the corncob maze, be prepared meet some real, live spooks!

While there are hair-raising scares around every corner, the cast and crew run a toned-down version of the event for the younger kids during the first half-hour, starting at 6:00 p.m.

To help families make an evening of it, refreshments are plentiful, and inexpensively priced. Tickets are $9.00 for adults and $5.00 for kids under 12.

The Haunted Ghost Town will be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 19, 20, 21 and 26, 27 and 28 from 6:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Rossi Farms is located at 3839 NE 122nd Avenue, just south of NE Shaver Street.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

As school gets underway, see another way companies are helping Southeast Portland students get off to a better start this year …

Fifth-graders Jade Ramsey and Sierra Parsons are getting their backpacks from Susan McElroy, Principal of Grout Elementary School, and Kip Larson, representing his employer, Concero, as well as the Brooklyn Action Corps, of which he is Secretary.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not all Southeast Portland students come from well-to-do families; 67 percent of kids enrolled at Grout Elementary School on Holgate Boulevard qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

But area businesses, working with Schoolhouse Supplies’ “Tools for Schools” program, helps all students in the school by providing them with a backpack, filled with pencils, paper and other supplies.

Teacher Donna Zimbro, and her first grade class at Grout Elementary School, look delighted with their new backpacks, filled with school supplies.

“For a community like ours,” says the school’s principal, Susan McElroy, “a lot of families live below the poverty line. To spend up to $100 to equip a child for school is beyond their means. When you tell parents this is taken care of, I’ve had them burst into tears of joy.”

Students cheer as curtains open
As the assembly gets underway on September 7, the kids have a hard time settling down. These young students know they’re about to get a brand new backpack.

As the curtains on the school’s auditorium stage opens, revealing the treasure trove of backpacks, the young students cheer. Class by class, they line up and accept their pack.

Grout’s Principal, Susan McElroy, thanks sponsors who provided the backpacks for her students.

Many students leave hand-made thank-you notes on the stage. “Our kids are really thankful that people have taken the time to give them just a little,” McElroy says.

Volunteers from Entrepreneurs Foundation of the Northwest handed out the backpacks – sponsored by Radio Cab, Barco-Medical, Concero Technology, Fahey Ventures LLC, Hepieric Inc., Sabrix and TripWire.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Think this is just another low-income crackerbox, being stuffed in outer East Portland? Find out ROSE Development folks say Leander Court is actually a great addition to the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood …

A good-sized crowd of well-wishers gather for the grand opening ceremony at Leander Court in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Amid speeches, a ribbon cutting, and luncheon, ROSE Community Development unveiled its newest low-income housing project – Leander Court.

Before the ceremonies, we talked with ROSE executive director, Nick Sauvie.

“We’re opening 37 family units here at Leander Court apartments. This is a good step for providing families with children to get off to a better start,” Sauvie began.

ROSE Community Development’s executive director, Nick Sauvie, welcomes dignitaries and guests to the grand opening celebration.

“Most of these units have three or four bedrooms. The market isn’t providing housing like the units in this development, particularly at the rents we’re charging. We were 100% leased-up before we finished construction. This is pretty remarkable, and indicative of the demand for family housing.”

Eleven of the units at the development on SE 122nd Avenue, a block south of SE Holgate Boulevard, are dedicated to families at risk of homelessness, Sauvie told us. Two units are especially designed to accommodate on-site child-care.

“When you look around, the units are thoughtfully designed. There is a nice courtyard and play area. This is top-of-the-line in many ways.”

Provides low-income alternative
We ask, “Does outer East Portland really need more ‘low income housing’ built here?”

Sauvie replied, “When you look around the area, you see a lot of is poorly designed, poorly constructed, and poorly managed ‘market-rate’ housing units coming into neighborhoods. It isn’t necessarily inexpensive, but it is the only alternative some families have. We’re providing that alternative.

“We’re trying to create better opportunities for families,” Sauvie continued. “If we can help families pay affordable rents, they can put money away, saving up a down payment for a house. We’ve helped many folks like that in the last five years.”

Built for families
As we tour the development, we learn that the $7.4 million building was designed expressly for the needs of working families with children. The complex includes two on-site day-care facilities, a large outdoor play area, and consists primarily of three- and four-bedroom apartments.

The idea, Sauvie said, is to provide safe and stable homes to those earning less than half of the Median Family Income.

Portland has gone from having “most affording housing” to offering “least affordable housing”, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler says.

County Chair expresses his pride
During the ceremony, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler told the crowd, “In 1990, the City of Portland was considered to be one of the most affordable cities in the United States. My! How things have changed. In 2007, we’re one of the least affordable cities in which to live.

“I’m very proud of the work ROSE has done in the last 15 years to actually make sure we have a sustainable supply of affordable housing in Multnomah County.”

Multnomah County is funding five units, Wheeler says, for the families of women coming out of the jail system. “They deserve to have access to safe and affordable housing. Our Department of Community Justice is very proud to provide services to help those women who are reunited with their children to get back on their feet and become productive and included members of this community.

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard says more housing projects like Leander Court are needed in outer East Portland school districts.

City commissioner grateful
Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard also came to the grand opening event.

“This [project] is important here in the David Douglas School District. The city needs more housing and economic development around schools for working families who cannot afford good housing. I am so grateful for Rose development for all the work they do throughout all of East Portland.”

Snip! Leander Court is open!

Before the group headed into the development’s Community Room to enjoy lunch, ROSE board member, Jim Barrett, asked Sauvie to explain what a “Leander” is.

“A Leander is a lovely rose that produces clusters of small, apricot colored blooms,” Sauvie replied.

Showing off some of her delicious sandwiches provided to the grand opening celebration is Sarah Iannarone, owner Arleta Library Bakery Café across the street from Mt. Scott Community Center.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Like Texas Hold-em? Check out this great tournament with the fun Parkrose Business Association folks. And, take a look at our Cruise-in Memories poster right here …

Parkrose Business Association member pitches the Texas Hold-em Poker Tournament scheduled for October 6 at Steamers Restaurant.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Back in session after their summer recess, the member of the Parkrose Business Association gathered to meet and greet last week.

At their regularly-scheduled noontime meeting, they talked briefly about the June, 2007, Rose Festival Cruise-in, and planned their new event – a Texas Hold-em Poker Tournament.

Oct. 6 Texas Hold-em Poker Tournament
“We’ve got a great event planned for Saturday, October 6,” said Terry Briar, with Davey OrganiCare, as he started his pitch.

“The grand prize will be a $500.00 Visa gift card,” Briar reported.

Buy-in is $49.99 per player, limited to 40 seats, stated Briar. The proceeds benefit the Parkrose Business Foundation Scholarship Fund. “We believe we can fund another Parkrose High School Senior Scholarship from this event.”

The tournament starts at 5:00 p.m. sharp at Steamers Restaurant, 8303 NE Sandy Boulevard, (just north of NE 82nd Avenue of Roses). For more information, contact Briar at (503) 287-2282.

Rose Festival Cruise-in
Because of cloudy skies and rain, only 80 vehicles were on display at this annual event put on by the business association.

But, the raindrops didn’t dampen the spirits of those who showed cars – or the spectators who came by look at them.

The event, the major fundraiser for Parkrose Business Foundation scholarships, produced enough income to provide several scholarships to Parkrose High School seniors in 2008.

At this year’s Cruise-in, the “Best of Show” award went to Richard Speakman. He’s pictured in the lower right of our “Cruise-in Memories” poster reproduced here:

Coming soon …
We’re working on an article based on a talk given at the association’s September meeting by Dr. Richard O’Connor, PhD, of the Oregon Building Congress, and by Michael Taylor, retired Superintendent of Parkrose School District.

You’ll learn about the new and unique charter school which they – and their partners in education and industry – are creating, to teach building trades at the high school level.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See how a new Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau project can reduce the damage that skateboarders cause to commercial and public spaces, by drawing them to a new skatepark planned for outer East Portland, designed with big-city challenges …

East Portland parks advocate, Linda Robinson, Mark Vanderzalm, skatepark design and construction consultant, and Mark Conahan,46-year-old skateboarder (and long time thrasher), look at the new “Skate Plaza” design – as Portland Parks & Recreation Program Manager, Rod Wojtanik, points out features.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Ed Benedict Park, located just east of I-205 on SE Powell Boulevard in the Lents Neighborhood, is the setting for Portland’s newest skatepark.

What’s a skatepark?

It’s a place specifically designed for riders of skateboards, street roller skaters, and BMX bike to have fun – away from city streets and public plazas.

“Portland Parks & Recreation isn’t building anything else that gets as much use as skateparks,” says the Parks Bureau Project Manager Rod Wojtanik, himself a Southeast resident. “These facilities serve a demographic we’ve not done a good job serving, unless the young people are in an organized sport.”

Play areas serve 2- to 8-year olds very well, explains Wojtanik. Soccer, baseball and football fields serve team sports players. Community centers feature basketball courts and swimming pools. “But none of these serve the young people who can’t find a place to skateboard and have planted themselves in front of the TV on the couch.”

25% of kids 14 to 16 years old say they like to ride a skateboard, Wojtanik continues. But, they don’t have safe alternatives to skating in the street or in public plazas. “Giving them a safe place skateboard meets a real recreation need.”

The plan for the proposed Skate Plaza mimics “skate-able surfaces” found in urban environments like benches, railings, and planter boxes.

Suburban ‘Plaza’ to feature urban skating features
Urban plazas are designed for pedestrians, not skateboarders, Wojtanik says; but because of these places have challenging and fun-to-skate surfaces, kids love to ride there. Skateboards ride, flip, and “grind” these surfaces – often to the dismay of city officials and property owners who must repair damage this play causes to railings, curbs, stairs, and planters.

The difference between a skatepark and a skate plaza, Wojtanik tells us, is the layout. Typically, skateparks have dramatic features like deep, swimming-pool like bowls, and are built into a relatively small area of land.

A skate plaza is more spread out. “It simulates an urban environment with stairs, railings and ledges. We’re creating an attraction for the skateboarding community designed to draw skaters away from public plazas to a place they can enjoy their kind of riding – without being arrested or fined.”

Unlike easily-damaged public and commercial areas, the surfaces in the skate plaza are specifically designed for skateboarding; planners say they’ll last indefinitely.

Ed Benedict Park was chosen because the site is large, has good visibility from the street, and has good access to public transportation. It is an area that is safe for children, Wojtanik says.

Bureau seeks public input
At a meeting held at Earl Boyles Elementary School – it borders Ed Benedict Park – planners showed off their skate plaza design and asked for input.

Skate plaza designers reveal that at least 70% of the skate park will have “street skating” features. The plaza will feature more vegetation than in the other skate parks, with numerous planter boxes – all with skateable surfaces.

Overall, indications from skateboarders show they favor the street skating theme of the new park. They suggest that “transitional skating” features (30% of the skate plaza) be kept at a scale that’s compatible with the streetscape theme.

Across-the-street neighbor Mitchel Odom, and his son Derek, look at plans for the new skate plaza – but Mitchel says the location raises some concerns.

Neighbors express concerns
A few non-skaters in the audience expressed concerns that the skate plaza is located on the north edge of the park, close to traffic on SE Powell Boulevard. The design team said they will use a variety of mechanisms, including vegetation and cables, to keep skateboarders from accidentally flying out into traffic – and, to keep out-of-control cars from careening into the skate plaza.

As across-the-street neighbor Mitchel Odom looked at the skate plaza’s design, he said that he’s concerned about the possibility of a “culture clash” at the park.

Urban skateboarders have their own culture, Odom said, as do teams of ethnic soccer players. “Soccer players don’t come to the park with skateboards. There is a lack of parking. Every day on Powell, there is a huge backup of traffic. It is a two-lane road. My major concern is the potential for a culture clash among users.”

Next steps
Wojtanik says the bureau is in the public design phase of the development process. If you missed the meeting on September 13, you can still comment by going online – promptly – and letting your concerns or comments be known.

To comment online, CLICK HERE. This link will take you directly to the comment area on PortlandOnline.com.

“When we solidify our design, we’ll get permits and begin construction. We should see skaters on the plaza by July of 2008,” predicted Wojtanik.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Did you know that Portland Metro Performing Arts dance troupe is celebrating its 30th season? Learn about their special fall performance, other classes available – and how your kids will benefit! …

Even tots like Chloe Jeanmarie can learn crafts, like how to make paper flowers, at PMPA. “It’s fun,” she says.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not long ago, we stopped in to visit our friends at the Portland Metro Performing Arts (PMPA) Center, and to attend their Fall Open House.

“We’re happy families are coming by today,” said Executive Director Nancy Yeamans. “They’re learning about our programs and sampling our classes.”

This unique institution – located in the heart of the Gateway District – offers dance, music, theater, and visual arts classes – mostly for kids, but people of all ages are welcome to participate in some of their programs.

Dance company celebrates third decade
Yeamans told us enthusiastically about the PMPA dance company’s 30th anniversary season, now underway.

“At our Dance Mosaic concert in November, we’re doing two totally different programs,” Yeamans said. “We’re inviting alumnus dancers – many of them who now perform with major companies – to rejoin us for a homecoming.

At the Dance Mosaic shows, scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17, professional dance alumnus will join with the current company for solo and group performances. “Over the years, we’ve had 150 members in our dance company,” the executive director added.

The PMPA intermediate/advanced ballet class practices jumps, steps and routines, under the direction of teacher Christina Hintz.

Relevance of PMPA offerings
“Most schools don’t provide these programs, Yeamans told us. “Some schools have music or art instructors – but I can’t think of any with dance teachers. The kids are losing out if the parents can’t provide additional arts enrichment for their children.”

Art, she added, helps young people find their “voice”; that is, it helps them express what they feel. “This is especially important for young people. They often can’t express, in words, what they feel as they can with art. And, what we teach also helps students do better in math, sciences, and English, because it gives relevance to their school-day curriculum.”

Although PMPA classes have begun, students may still join classes on a space-available basis.

For more information, CLICK HERE to be taken to their web site. Or, call their office at (503) 408-0604.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See our favorite pirate rock band – Captain Bogg & Salty – welcomed back by a throng of admirers, at this unusual library show – and see where the 2nd Annual PIRATE FESTIVAL will be THIS weekend …

While First Mate McGraw sings a solo, Captain Bogg gives us the “secret pirate sign” – the hook!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Judging by the giggling, laughing, singing and dancing of hundreds of kids at Sellwood Park a few weeks ago, Sellwood Branch Library’s choice of Captain Bogg & Salty’s Pirate Band for this event was a good one.

“Capt. Bogg and Salty have had wonderful, long partnership with the library,” said Sellwood Branch children’s librarian Marci Davis. “They’re the perfect ones to help us celebrate the conclusion of our summer reading program, ‘Get a Clue’.”

Davis said that kids who have participated in the summer reading program can win prizes. “This program keeps them coming in and asking about new books to read.”

So popular is this local band, Captain Bogg lets members of the audience sing verses of the songs they’ve come to know well.

Pirates as music stars
“It’s an honor to be asked back to the celebration again this year,” lead guitarist and singer First Mate McGraw (AKA Kevin Hender) told us. “With the reception we get, it’s become one of my favorite shows. To this audience, we’re stars!”

First Mate McGraw asked us to mention that the 2nd Portland Pirate Festival returns to Cathedral Park in St. Johns – under the bridge – this weekend, September 22 and 23.

No one croons a pirate tune like The Captain!

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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